ELECTION campaigns always have the potential to throw up a little drama and animosity between candidates vying for votes.
And at this year’s general election it appears that the most intense battles are being fought in St Saviour.
Having already hosted an at times tetchy hustings last month, St Saviour’s Parish Hall was the venue for a ‘Meet the Candidates’ speed-dating-style event, where parishioners were invited to have brief one-to-one chats with 11 of the 12 Islanders – Deputy Jeremy Maçon did not attend – seeking election as Deputies in the parish.
But before even setting foot in the parish hall, former Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf, seeking a return to the States Assembly after a four-year absence, was confronted as he stepped out of his car by a clearly angry Jersey Alliance party treasurer Chris Leck, who marched across the car park to challenge the former Senator.
Mr Leck accused Mr Ozouf of ‘shouting at his wife [St Saviour and Jersey Alliance party candidate Mary O’Keeffe]’ at a prior election engagement and said the former Senator had ‘bullied’ her.
Visibly taken aback, Mr Ozouf replied that Mr Leck ‘needed to behave himself’ and suggested that the treasurer’s behaviour itself amounted to bullying before heading inside to take his seat.
Speaking after the event, Jersey Alliance party leader Sir Mark Boleat said that he hoped the campaign could focus on policies rather than personalities.
He said: ‘There has certainly been a dispute about what was said. Hopefully people have had their say and it is over – we need to get back to discussing the important policy issues. The campaign should focus on policies not people.’
Mrs O’Keeffe echoed that sentiment and added that she ‘does not want my campaign to be about this’.
She said that earlier in the week she had ‘stopped campaigning and gone home’, having been ‘taken aback’ during an interaction with Mr Ozouf near Miladi Farm. The two had earlier been involved in a Twitter spat about parish boundaries relating to the Hotel de France and facilities available within St Saviour.
Mr Leck alleged that Mr Ozouf had ‘demanded an apology from my wife and berated her in public’. He added that he ‘had words with him’ to defend his wife as ‘I thought his behaviour was out of order’.
Mr Ozouf said that he had challenged inaccurate claims made by Mrs O’Keeffe and asked her to set the record straight and rejected any accusations that he had bullied her.
It is not the first time there have been heated exchanges in St Saviour during this election campaign.
At a previous hustings in the parish, child protection campaigner Cheyenne O’Connor attempted to ask questions about the safety of young people online which were disallowed – prompting a back-and-forth between several members of the audience.
Miss O’Connor again attended the Meet-the-Candidates event to ask them about their views on child protection – although she was unable to quiz Deputy Kevin Pamplin, who left the session shortly after she arrived and did not return. A friend collected his belongings.
There are five Deputy seats up for grabs in the parish, with Deputies Maçon, Pamplin and Louise Doublet, Mrs O’Keeffe, Mr Ozouf, Reform Jersey candidate Raluca Kovacs, Jersey Liberal Conservatives’ Malcolm Ferey, Progress Party’s Sophie Walton and independents Lee Cornick, Suzanne Webb, Tom Binet and Jonathan Channing vying for parishioners’ votes.